March 7, 2010

Global Shinkai Day: 5 cm Per Second

More articles by »
Written by: Kristin
Tags: , ,

Happy Sunday all, and welcome back for our final look at the films of Makoto Shinkai.  Today we’ll be looking at his third feature film, 5 Centimeters Per Second.  This is, I am ashamed to admit, the one film of his I do not own.  I did not have the money for it when it came out, and now it’s nearly impossible to get a hold of.  What would make this the best Shinkai weekend ever, is if some kind studio out there would re-license and redistribute the films.  That would make me the happiest little otaku on Earth.  Fortunately for now, I’m able to watch it on Crunchyroll so I can write this review.

The title 5 cm Per Second refers to the speed at which a cherry blossom petal falls to the ground.  It represents the passage of time.  Having watched this one again, I really want to just curl up in a ball and cry for an hour.  So bear with me as I try to collect my thoughts.  Once again, Makoto Shinkai has masterfully created a film that touches so simply on emotions we’ve all likely felt at least once in our lives.  The themes of love, loneliness, time, and distance.  The use of scenery and changing seasons.  The inner voice and connected dreams.  It’s all here again in Shinkai’s most recent film.  The guy seems happy enough with his current life, so it amazes me that he can draw on the moments of his adolescence again and again, and create these sweetly melancholy stories.  But that’s what art is, really, and Shinkai is beyond a doubt an artist.

5 cm Per Second, subtitled “a chain of short stories about their distance,” is a single story broken up into three parts.  Each story focuses on a part of the relationship between Akari Shinohara and Takaki Tono, with Takaki at the center.  The time-line spans from the 1990s to the present day, beginning by showing Akari and Takaki as classmates in elementary school in “Cherry Blossom.”  The two became close friends in school, as their small and weak natures lead them to bond over books in the library, rather than with the other children out on the playground.  After elementary school, Akari moves away, leaving Takaki behind.  The two exchange letters for a while, until Takaki has to move, which will place a distance between them that is too long for a simple visit.  Before Takaki moves, they arrange to meet in Akari’s town, and Takaki plots an elaborate train schedule to get to her.  As he sits on the train, he reminisces about their friendship and clutches a letter in his pocket in which he has written out all of his feelings for Akari.  But the closer he gets to Akari, the further away he seems, as the piling winter snow delays train after train, causing him to fall further and further behind schedule.  He watches the snow fall on the empty plains outside the train windows, as he sits alone and the time slowly passes, knowing all he can do is keep going forward, and hope Akari still waits for him.

Part two, “Cosmonaut,” takes place a few years later.  Takaki is now in high school, a quiet and kind boy who has caught the eye of Kanae Sumida.  Kanae has been in love with Takaki ever since she first laid eyes on him.  To spend just a moment with him, she often stays behind after school, waiting for him to finish his club activities, so they can go home together.  She often sees him emailing someone, and secretly wishes that he was writing to her.  As graduation nears, Kanae tries to gather the courage to confess her feelings.  Her life is at a stand still; she can’t seem to progress with her surfing, the relationship with the boy she loves is not going anywhere, and she can’t decide on what to do after high school.  When she finally manages to catch a good wave for the first time in months, she decides it’s time to tell Takaki how she feels.  But as she tries to form the words, a rocket ship launches in the distance, desperately pushing forward to go into the lonely abyss of space and find the answers to the universe.  For the first time, she realizes that when Takaki looks at her, he is always looking past her to something far, far away…and she knows it’s not her he’s looking for.

And finally, after plenty of tears, we come to part three, “5 Centimeters Per Second.”  More years have passed, and everyone has gone their separate ways.  Takaki lives in Tokyo working as a computer programmer, and Akari is planning her wedding.  Takaki is trapped in his past, dreaming of Akari, and suffering the pain in his heart.  He tries to move on by concentrating on his job, and dating a local woman.  But after three years, the girl calls it off, realizing that though they talk constantly, their hearts don’t seem to be growing any closer.  One morning he wakes up and realizes that the ideals he’s held onto for so many years have disappeared, leaving him empty.  Unable to take it any longer, he quits his job to look for something else.  Akari, for her part, discovers a letter she had planned to give to Takaki containing her feelings, and thinks fondly back on the time when they were children…but she has moved on.  It’s finally the season for cherry blossoms to fall, and Takaki goes out for a walk.  As he crosses a set of train tracks, he passes by a woman and immediately feels drawn to her.  On the other side of the tracks he turns around to look at her, knowing inside himself that she will be doing the same.  Just as the two begin to look toward each other, a train passes between them, and the moment is gone.

The film wraps up with a beautiful montage of the main characters, showing past moments and new moments in their lives.  A song called “One More Time, One More Chance” by Masayoshi Yamazaki plays, with lyrics describing the feeling of looking for someone everywhere you go, even though you don’t ever expect them to actually be there; wanting to say “I love you,” like you weren’t able to before; wishing to live life over again to spend it with that person.

Oh look, I’m still crying.  Ah, this one was hard to write; I had to keep stopping while I controlled my emotions.  Every time I got to the end of a segment, I’d start crying again, stop, them come back a little later to do the next section.  I really hope that by featuring these films over the weekend, I’ve converted some of you over to Shinkai’s films.  The time you spend watching each film is so incredibly worth spending, so I encourage each and every one of you to watch all three films when you get the chance.  Let’s see…I’m not very good with math.  Crunchyroll put the films up Friday at 5 pm PST for 48 hours…which means they’ll be up until 5 pm PST on Sunday (today).  Which is…8 pm EST/7 CST?  So there should still be a good amount of time left.  Both Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days can be rented through Netflix as well; 5 cm Per Second is currently unavailable.  If just one of you is convinced by my reviews to see these films, and you’re moved even the tiniest fraction as much as I was, then it was totally worth diving back into these films and being depressed all weekend.

If you haven’t grown tired of my ramblings (and there were quite a lot this week), be sure to come back tomorrow for my Bento Bako Weekly column, where I’ll be reviewing Makoto Tateno’s 9th Sleep.  If you missed them, here are part one and part two of my Shinkai review weekend.




  1. Sounds like this one, out of all the others, is the one to not miss.

    And sorry to hear you missed out on buying this. We all know the feeling. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this hobby is to pull the trigger when something really worth owning comes along.

  2. I agree with Andy it looks like they saved the best for last with this one!

  3. billy

    Wow, this really sounds like a tear-jerker Kris. Good article.

  4. Kristin

    They all are. The guy must have been totally miserable as a kid. He talks a lot about his struggles when he was younger. How lost he felt, or how he was distanced from the person he loved, uncertainty…. He takes that and makes these beautiful, emotional films. In the end, they’re all basically about the same thing, but they’re also very different. I think, you know…everyone knows what it’s like to be separated from someone, and wanting to be with them again, so the films really speak to people.

  5. […] a surfing friend and her older sister, Kanae is able to face her past and move forward as well.I reviewed the film version that this manga is based on a while back. There’s not much more to say here that I […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Website Protected by Spam Master